Dirty Mittens
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Dirty Mittens

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""It's Pop, Stupid""

"I think we constantly try to simplify, that's our goal," says Chelsea Morrisey, and she means it.

Her band, Dirty Mittens, while just two EPs into their career, have already mastered the oft-ignored rock-and-roll axiom of "Keep it simple, stupid."

Loosely associated with the unstoppable creative dynamo that is Boy Gorilla Records, Dirty Mittens have helped facilitate the expansion of Portland's youth music scene by adding their name to a short list of our town's most ambitious and creative indie-rockers.

Their songs have a skeletal pop precision recalling The Unicorns or Beat Happening, and even with the addition of bass player Ezra Sandberg-Lewis (of the underappreciated band Hurrah Hurrah), they promise to keep delivering sparse auditory delights.

Their minimalist pop persuasion was conceived when Morissey and keyboardist Noah Jay-Bon began working on songs following the dissolution of the latter's former band, Ample Sample. Drawing on experience from a wide range of musical projects, the two set about writing songs that could stand on the merit of their decisive arrangements. Then they were given a stronger rhythmic underpinning with the addition of drummer Andy Parker.

The resultant ecstatic pop was quick to arrest the praise of local indie aficionados.

The release of their debut EP followed, to much applause, and when they set about recording their second collection of songs, producer Skyler Norwood was enlisted to further develop the band's burgeoning aesthetic. Holed up in Norwood's Point Juncture, Wash., studio, Dirty Mittens recorded the Mid-July EP. According to Morissey, the sound the band wanted was "Lo-fi, but not like we recorded it ourselves and weren't very good at it." Fortunately for them, turning over the reins to someone who was very good at recording produced exactly the combination of grit and polish needed to bring out the nuances of their sound.

The Mid-July EP boasts both Dirty Mittens' remarkably tight songwriting and a palpable exuberance, which is carried gracefully through the record's production. Dirty Mittens have used their youth as a catalyst to drive the energetic appeal of their arrangements, and this pays off for them in a big way. Balancing their innate energy with calculated song craft has allowed Dirty Mittens to produce music that reflects their age without succumbing to it.

Morissey's voice--the absolute doppelganger to the similarly named Smiths singer--quavers atop the Mittens' punchy instrumentation to an immediate effect. It is much "happier" than your typical indie-rock project.

Dirty Mittens' lively pop has not only gained them attention over the past several months, but has also manifested a slew of opportunities that have been appearing on an almost daily basis. Their next recorded output will be a split seven-inch record, made in conglomeration with two-thirds of the Boy Gorilla roster (expect Eskimo and Sons, Typhoon and other such goodies), and over the next month they will be playing several shows, all of which are available to the all-ages crowd.

Also, Morissey has hinted about a possible record deal in the works, which would allow Dirty Mittens to comfortably tour and widely distribute their material. While details are still a ways off, it can be safely postulated that Morissey and company's recognition will only continue to grow in 2008. - Portland Vangaurd


"POP N' FRESH"

[POP 'N' FRESH] What to wear? Dirty Mittens make sullied laundry sound good. Singer Chelsea Morrisey's voice—backed by gently beaten drums and coaxing guitar—flutters its way through pop songs like linen strung across a clothesline on a breezy day. The local trio's brand of odd-pop is distinguishable from much of what stocks indie shelves, making listeners want to abandon detergent altogether. But then, what's in a name? NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL. - Willamette Week


"Music Fest NW"

Young teens rapidly filled the newly all-ages Satyricon for Dirty Mittens' opening 8pm set. This Portland trio has rapidly made a name for themselves since forming less than a year ago, their success due in no small part to frontwoman Chelsea Morrisey's flittering, bird-like voice. She is remarkably personal and tender, not unlike a female Conor Oberst, as she plays guitar accompanied by simple keyboard bass lines and a drummer who, at one point, inexplicably played his high hat with an apple. - Harp Magazine


"Show Review"

Dirty Mittens frontwoman Chelsea "Pants" (her nickname, not ours) has this high-pitched squeal of a voice that seemed so familiar, yet still unlike anything else at the same time... Then it hit me—Shelley Duvall! She sounds like Duvall, as Olive Oyl, from the brilliant, and baffling, Harry Nilsson-written Popeye soundtrack. And please do not read this the wrong way: I mean that as the most sincere compliment I can muster, as the playful howl of Olive Oyl was enough to land "the sailor man with the spinach can," who's quite the catch, or so I hear. The Mittens have just released a new EP, recorded with Point Juncture, WA's Skyler Norwood, which they'll be slinging for a low price at the show - Portland Mercury


"Indie pop"

This Portland Three-piece, fronted by small-but-powerful Chelsea Morrisey, derives influences from all over the musical map--from doo-wop to lo-fi indei-pop to shogazing rock and back again. But what defines Dirty Mittens is its knack for a great pop riff, like that of should-be hit "Walking Home Happy," whose combination of a catchy drum beat and an infectious keyboard jangle will have you, well, walking home happy. - Willatmette Week


"Cut of the Day"

How refreshing it is to hear a fun, bouncy pop song about a lost love. “Mid-July” finds the Dirty Mittens channeling early Motown, and singer Chelsea Morrisey perfectly conveys the transition from forlorn lover to the state of (frustrated) acceptance after heartbreak. She starts out strong, but then relapses into reminiscence before chastising herself for her weakness: “I was a weak broad / and like a weak broad / I fell down hard.” JIM SANDBERG. - Localcut.com


"Once More with Feeling"

"We just woke up one day and all of a sudden we were a five-piece and I was like, 'Whoa. I think this is getting good.'" So says Dirty Mittens frontwoman Chelsea Morrisey on the band's rapid growth from an uneven trio to a extravagant and fun-loving exercise in pop music done right. The early days of the Mittens portrayed a band with ample room to grow, another well-intentioned act with endless potential, but rudderless in the pop music waters.

"I think we were limited by the fact that we were a three-piece," explains Morrisey. "Our idea has always been to infuse elements of doo-wop and dance-pop, but not having a bass player was a little bit of a problem. I don't think we knew what we were doing, necessarily. When we added a bass player it was an epiphany; it became clear what direction we wanted to follow."

That direction is toward a tastefully vintage brand of pop music, complete with playful horns, an abundance of hand claps, and the sweet chirping voice of Morrisey at the center of it all. With a new five-song EP entitled Pinky Swear, the group has finally hit their stride, bringing to mind the pop-genius ambitions of Jens Lekman alongside enough bedroom twee to warm even the coldest of hearts.

"I think Jens Lekman was sort of a turning point for us," Morrisey says in regard to the orchestrated Swedish pop singer, but Lekman is not her sole influence. "I spend most of my days listening to soul music. It reminds you that horns play a big part in the melodies of a song."

It's an influence which is paramount during Pinky Swear's proudest moment, the stylish "Time Forgiver," which evolves from quaint indie-pop ball-ad—complete with finger-snaps and lyrics about the chill of "Swedish winters"—into a raucous, soulful, horn-thick party jam. It's a wondrous moment that gracefully captures a once-modest band on their glorious rise to the ambitious heights of pop music. It's a thing of beauty, really. - Portland Mercury


"DIRTY MITTENS, Pinky Swear (self-released)"

MOTOWN-TINGED INDIE-POP] It takes a few minutes into “The Small Things,� the first song on cute-pop band Dirty Mittens’ new five-song EP, Pinky Swear, to realize that not everything is as peachy as it seems. It starts out as a pristine slice of ’60s nostalgia, filled with shuffling guitar, organ and a swinging horn section, until singer (and former WW intern) Chelsea Morrisey slyly drops a bomb during the second verse: “If a hard truth applies to you,� she sings, “that I had love/ And I lost love.� Yup—don’t dare call this a twee record.

Whereas older Mittens material survived on Beat Happening-esque simplicity and Morrisey’s astute lyrics, the new EP showcases a fleshed-out sound, drawing as many cues from vintage Motown (that horn section!) as it does indie-pop. It also sounds almost uncannily like the Concretes’ near-perfect self-titled debut.

Like former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman, Morrisey has a real knack for first-person songwriting. The album stumbles from back porches to city streets, broken pleas to outlying docks. But when Morrisey deviates—especially on “Amelia,� a lament from the perspective of the ill-fated pilot Amelia Earhart’s father—the details are just as rich. And the sound just as infectious. - Willamette Week


"Dirty Mittens, “White Winter Hymnal� (Fleet Foxes cover, unreleased)"

It’s a pretty common sentiment in this town that we are lucky enough to be able to see bands grow over the course of their runs. This experience can be rewarding whether you follow the group all along or suddenly rediscover an old friend. In the case of Dirty Mittens, the transformation from the tight but raw three piece of their earliest shows (I was at their first show: February first, 2007) to the produced and expanded troupe they employ now is a pretty remarkable thing to hear after not listening to them for nearly a year.

The voice of Dirty Mittens’ Chelsea Morrissey, that trembling warble, was actually the inspiration for this MusicFestNW covers project. For whatever reason I one day imagined Morrissey singing TV On The Radio’s “Staring At The Sun,� which led me to think maybe I should ask Dirty Mittens to cover the song for my LocalCut podcast, and for other bands to cover other performers at this year’s festival. When “the Mittens,� as they’re sometimes called, told me they would be doing “White Winter Hymnal� by Fleet Foxes for their contribution, I thought it a rather ambitious undertaking. The band’s effort, the first cover they’ve recorded, is just as gorgeous and reverent as any Fleet Foxes cover ought to be; they hit it out of the park.

Morrissey had the following to say:
“White Winter Hymnal� was Noah’s suggestion, but we all agreed that due to its acoustic nature, it was a song with a lot of room for interpretation. I think Noah and Dhani did a great job of creating their own White Winter Hymnal, while remaining respectfully close to the original.� - Localcut.com


""Pinky Swear""

an you really depend on appearances? Many people still say that shoes make the man, but sometimes there's a little something else going on behind what is immediately visible. For instance, say you're walking down a street in the Covent Garden area of London, England in the XVIIIth century. You'll likely come across a popular place named Tom King's Coffee House. For all appearances and purposes, it's just that, a coffee house: a place where someone could sit down to enjoy a hot beverage with an array of small snacks. But, in reality, Tom King's was the meeting place of choice for prostitutes to hook up with customers, without being an actual brothel. The establishment owners and their patrons even developed their own coded lingo to keep the morality police from infiltrating their little cosm.

Considering that, you'd have to admit to there being something inherently cute about a band naming itself "Dirty Mittens" and bestowing Pinky Swear as the title of their first EP. And when you listen to The Dock, it's hard not to be immediately caught up in singer Chelsea Morrisey's breathy, winsome voice. "I bet a mouse would love this music," says my girlfriend upon completing her own listen. But the breezy nature of the song and its light, shuffling, e-pop arrangements are carrying something heavier, a burdensome strain which inflects an understated craving to the song. "Oh, I've had enough/Throwing them off the dock to be buried/All these lonely thoughts/Goodbye loneliness" sings Morrisey amidst the unsettled sidle of horns and the blue key pads humming in the background, pining for a release from onerous, isolating feelings which swim amidst her mind, hoping to be as carefree as the timbre of the song would permit her to do. Adorable, yes. Cutesy, no way. The Dock is too well-rounded and surreptitious to be disregarded forthright.

- Mark Berube of A Limerick Ox blog


Discography

2008 -- Pinky Swear (Jackpot! Recording, Gungle Dungeon Studio)

S/T album in the making, early 7" scheduled to release with Magic Marker Records.

Photos

Bio

Dirty Mittens has shared the stage and toured with:

The Dirty Projectors
Dan Deacon
Yacht
Scout Niblett
Emma Pollock
The Thermals
Surfer Blood
Deer Tick
Port O'Brien
Ramona Falls
Princeton